AFC Divisional Round preview: Do Titans stand a chance in New England?

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for a 35-yard touchdown away from Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (57) and linebacker Tamba Hali (91) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Few people expected the Titans to make it past Kansas City, but they did so with a strong run game, a keyed-in Marcus Mariota and a few lucky bounces.

But do they stand a chance in New England? The momentum of last weekend’s victory might be about the only thing on their side — because history sure isn’t:

And then comes the matchup we’re especially excited for: Jaguars versus Steelers. Not only is this a great head-to-head matchup between two of the NFL’s best defences, it’s also looking like it’ll be a top-notch battle between some of the league’s most talented position players as the best duo of wide receivers goes up against the league’s top pair of defenders. This is going to be fun:

Here are a few things to watch for as we look ahead to this weekend’s AFC divisional playoff matchups.

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots, Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET

Titans need to hand Henry the keys
It goes without saying that the Titans need the Mariota we saw during the second half of last weekend’s wild-card win — and not the one we saw throughout much of the regular season. But if Tennessee is to have any hope of winning on Saturday night, it needs Derrick Henry at his best. The second-year RB rose to the occasion last week in the absence of DeMarco Murray, running for a career-high 156 yards and contributing a touchdown to the Titans’ comeback effort.

He’ll have a chance to be a difference-maker again this week against the 29th-ranked defence that has struggled against the run all year.

Patriots up against tough defence

Playoff Tom Brady is the best Tom Brady, and while it’s worth noting that he looked a little more mortal over the month of December, it’s safe to assume he’ll be… well, Brady. The Titans have a scary crew of pass rushers, but their real strength defensively could be on display against the run. The Patriots’ diverse, run-by-committee scheme led by Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead will be up against the league’s fourth-best run defence that effectively shut down the NFL’s best runner in Kareem Hunt.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET

Pressure’s on for Bortles
You don’t have to dig too deep to find Jacksonville’s weakness. While quarterback Blake Bortles recovered from his dreadful first half against the Bills and showed some impressive mobility, the Steelers’ fifth-ranked defence simply won’t allow him any room for error like Buffalo did.

Jaguars need to follow their Week 5 game plan
Jacksonville was dominant in its Week 5 win over the Steelers, who learned a valuable lesson to never play down to your opponents.

Leonard Fournette had a career-best game thanks to 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while the No. 2 defence left Ben Roethlisberger’s ego in shambles. Big Ben failed to do anything in the red zone (even the great Antonio Brown couldn’t make any magic happen), threw five interceptions, and got philosophical in the locker room about whether he had “it” anymore. Might we see a rerun on Sunday?

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